FARC accepts responsibility for civilian deaths

Colombia's FARC guerillas on Oct. 29 admitted to causing harm to the population during the 50 years of their war against the state, and vowed to assume responsibility for their victims. "We explicitly recognize that our actions have affected civilians at different times and under different circumstances throughout the conflict," rebel commander "Pablo Atrato" said at a Havana press conference already dubbed "historic" by Colombian media. "We are aware that the results of our actions were not always what the FARC had foreseen or expected, and we assume the consequences because there can not be another way. The FARC will assume the responsibility that belongs with us." Atrato stated that "it is evident" that the FARC "actively participated" in violence and that the "adverse impact" of rebel actions "caused damage to the population that has been immersed in war." 

However, Atrato said, "people have not been the main target or the secondary target in offensive or defensive actions of our armed structures. The FARC-EP has never had a policy of systematic and deliberate violence against the population." Atrato stressed that the FARC explicitly forbids any abuse of the civilian population, and that such cases are investigated and the perpetrators punished "in a proper and timely manner." Nevertheless, "we are liable for each and every act of war performed by our forces, as well as for their consequences."

In June, FARC formally admitted responsibility for victims in the Colombian conflict, and last year admitted to "serious mistakes" over the course of the war. Over the past months, the government and guerillas alike have been meeting with victim representatives to discuss how to deal with the at least 6 million victims of the conflict. (Colombia Reports, Oct. 30)

Colombia meanwhile moved towards some justice in the long-outstanding case of the November 1985 massacre at the Palace of Justice in Bogotá, where the army attacked the building being held by a force of M-19 guerillas, leading to the deaths of some 100. A court in Bogotá found retired general Jesús Armando Arias, who was commander of the army's XIII Brigade at the time of the massacre, responsible for the "disappearance" of at least five persons in the incident. The five were among 11 held hostage in the building and thought to have escaped as it exploded into flame, but who were then reportedly "disappeared" by the military. Arias was condemned to 35 years in prison. (El Espectador, El Tiempo, Oct. 28)